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Social Media

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The Missouri Senate has endorsed legislation revising a contentious new state law that limits teacher communications with students over the Internet.

The bill given initial approval Monday would repeal a law barring teachers from using websites that give "exclusive access" to students. The provision already had been temporarily blocked by a judge last month because of free-speech concerns.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

The Missouri State Senator who sponsored the measure strictly limiting teacher-student contact via Facebook and other social media has filed legislation she says will clear up any confusion over the new law.

The issue was added Tuesday to the call of the special session by Governor Jay Nixon (D), but in his call the governor only stipulated that the language in question be removed, not replaced with new language.

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Updated 4:19 p.m. with comment from the Missouri State Teachers Association and Missouri State Sen. Jane Cunningham, the sponsor of the original bill which became law

From Todd Fuller of the Missouri State Teachers Association:

“It’s a sigh of relief for all teachers throughout the state who use social media, and it allows them to continue to use it in the positive way that they’re already using it and continue to interact with their students the way they have been.”

From Missouri State Sen.  Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, who sponsored the bill.  She acknowledges that there’s been confusion over what the restrictions will and won’t do, and says she has a solution:

“We have come up with some language that we feel like is ready to go…we don’t need to punt for more input, (I’m) not opposed to it, but we’ve got some agreed upon language with the stakeholders and we’re ready to clarify that language.”

Updated 1:11 p.m. with Gov. Nixon's action

Gov. Jay Nixon says he will add the teacher Internet issue to the agenda for a special legislative session that begins Sept. 6. Nixon says he wants lawmakers to repeal the new law.

His Friday announcement came shortly after a Missouri judge issued a preliminary injunction (see below) blocking the law from taking effect as scheduled on Sunday.

Updated 11:32 a.m. with link to full ruling

A Missouri judge has blocked a law restricting Internet communications between teachers and students from taking effect Sunday.

(You can read the full ruling here).

Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem issued a preliminary injunction against the law Friday, calling it a staggering prohibition of free speech rights.

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Mo. Gov. Nixon signed SB54, also known as the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, into law in July - making national news regarding some of the bill's provisions on educators and social media.

Now the law is being challenged in court by the Missouri State Teachers Association.

A law signed into law last month in Missouri is making waves nationally, this week. A small part of the wide-ranging SB54, makes it illegal for teachers to be "friends" with students on any social networking site that allows private communication.

That means teachers and students can't be friends on Facebook or can't follow each other on Twitter for example.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 30, 2008 - A high school senior changes the first name on his Facebook account to a nickname to hide from college admissions officers. How to be certain of his motive? He says so in his online status message. Another student shortens her last name to an initial, and a third deletes his profile entirely.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Sun. Nov. 9 - The 2008 election marks the year that digital politics finally achieved its full potential. For many political junkies, the Web, with its constant stream of election information and interactivity, was the best place to follow the campaign. Furthermore, the election marked the convergence of the old broadcast media and the new Web-based media. As more than one commentator has noted, in 2008, the old divisions, e.g., online vs. off, pop culture vs. civic culture, have been blurred to the point of disappearance.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 3, 2008 - When Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin takes the stage tonight at the Republican National Convention, she will step into the primetime spotlight less than one week after her surprise selection as John McCain's vice presidential pick - an event that turned her private life into an Internet free-for-all, followed by all-out media frenzy.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 2, 2008-  As another season gets underway for college and high school athletes across St. Louis, coaches have dreamed up - and in some cases already delivered - opening remarks to their teams.

The playbook: Start with some inspiration, then hit 'em with the serious stuff. Don't drink. Don't do drugs. Don't skip class. Increasingly, there's another element to the speech. Don't show yourself doing any of these things on Facebook or MySpace.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 14, 2008 - The 2008 presidential election campaign marks a watershed in the development of the Internet as a force in American politics. Previously, the Net was touted as having the potential to shape politics and government in the same way that it altered commerce. However, its promise to change politics was never quite fulfilled -- at least, not until the current presidential election.

Some might assert that this development represents a democratizing trend. However, there are troubling aspects that warrant attention by both the public and policymakers.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When Caitlin Ellis wants to know what Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton has to say about the economy, the war or the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, for that matter, she doesn't tune into CNN or wait for the evening network news. Instead, she's more likely to get her version of the truth by tapping into some of the so-called new media on the Web, such as YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace.

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